Transforming Safety Behaviours

There is a quiet revolution taking place in the field of health and safety with the advent of ISO45001.

I introduced our latest Safety Culture Event (held at Brathay Hall in Cumbria on Sept 15th) by saying that there is a quiet revolution taking place in the field of health and safety with the advent of ISO 45001. Expected to be published in the first half of 2018, ISO 45001 is the new international safety standard that will replace the current OHSAS 18001. The new standard is designed to change the position of EHS from one of being 'bolted on' to the business to it being 'built-in' to organisational systems. This shift in focus represents a real opportunity for cultural change.

A look at some of the key differences between the two standards might help to explain why. ISO 45001 includes:

These changes have the potential to be what is known in the field of organisational development (OD) as 'second order changes' - change that can transform organisations.

First and Second Order Change

Not all change that takes place in organisations is the same. A useful way of thinking about the differences is as first and scond order changes.


First order change is evolutionary - linear, doing more or less of what's already done, making minor changes and adjustments that enable things to be done better or faster and not really changing anything fundamental about the beliefs, values or ways of working of the organisation. It's adaptive and incremental - an example might be refining existing processes and procedures, or finding new ways to collect or report data, or reminding people about correct PPE. It's about regaining balance - the homeostasis of the system.

Second order change is revolutionary - it's not about doing the same thing faster or better but doing something different. It's transformational not incremental, requiring unlearning and relearning, and it both enables and requires people to think, feel and behave differently to how they did before. Second order change includes cultural change and therefore requires a different mindset, and different skills and tools. Examples might be, well, any of the differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001. Understanding and embedding EHS as part of the wider organisational and stakeholder system; a shift in focus and style from management to leadership; engagement and participation rather than policing; and accountability for the effectiveness of internal and external communications.

 The role of Organisational Development in EHS

Most behaviour change initiatives fail because the type of change required is misdiagnosed - second order treated as first order change, for example. Most culture change initiatives fail because the wider implications of the changes required aren't fully understood, resourced or accommodated. Organisational development is a field which includes:

As an OD consultancy Beehive is perfectly placed to help organisations make the changes to mindsets, skills and tools needed to transition to ISO 45001. Working in partnership with Brathay we can deliver the change to safety education required for the transition. If you have certification to OHSAS 18001 you will have a window of three years to migrate to ISO 45001 to maintain the validity of certification. And because ISO 45001 represents an opportunity for cultural rather than simply procedural change, the sooner the change begins the more likely you are to gain the greatest benefits.

We are running 3 consecutive one day Safety Behaviour workshops at Brathay in November. For more information please Contact Us